Cadet Tyler Smolensky of Middletown, a junior at MAST, the Marine Academy of Science and Technology, has been awarded an eight-week Private Pilot Scholarship from the U.S. Navy’s Commander, Naval Air Forces, making him the only scholarship recipient in New Jersey and one of only 20 across the entire nation.
The scholarship enables Smolensky, if successful, to attain a pilot’s license to fly small aircraft at the end of the eight-week summer program.
“I guess you could say, quite literally, ‘The sky’s the limit” for Tyler,” said MAST Principal Earl Moore. “What this young man has been able to accomplish at such a young age is truly remarkable. I can’t wait to see where he goes after college and beyond.”
“I worked very had for this and wanted it very much,” the 17-year old junior said. “It is the answer to my dreams.”
That he worked hard for it cannot be denied. In order to apply for the scholarship, which is only open to 9th, 10th and 11th grade Navy JROTC or Marine Corps ROTC cadets, Smolensky had to obtain a minimum physical readiness test score of 60 or better, have a cumulative GPA of no less than 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, and has to maintain GPA requirements in order to ensure admission to Delaware State University in Dover, where he will be in the program from June 12 through Aug. 4.
Termed by CNAF to be a scholarship with “tough competition among cadets,” Smolensky also had to secure endorsements from his Senior Naval Science Instructor, Cdr. Tracie Smith-Yeoman, USN (ret), and school counselor Lindsay Oppito. He had to complete an online aviation qualification test with sub-tests in math, table reading, aviation information, instrument comprehension and weight perception, in a single proctored test with no opportunity for a second chance, and had to be recognized as a student who is highly motivated.
“Since his freshman year here at MAST, Cadet Smolensky has distinguished himself with his maturity, his motivation, and his leadership skills, which is why he was selected to serve as a platoon commander his junior year. He is so well-rounded, and puts 100% into everything he does, whether that be competing on the NJROTC drill team, marching in the band at his home high school, his sports, or most importantly, his academics. I know he will succeed in this tough program, and I hope that it is the first step in Tyler becoming a military aviator in the future,” said CDR Tracie Smith Yeoman, USN (ret) NJROTC Senior Naval Instructor at MAST.
Smolensky, soft spoken, ever smiling, and an honor student in all his school years, is the son of Nina and Scott Smolensky and attended River Plaza and Thompson Middle schools before entering MAST three years ago. He admits he has always been interested in engineering as well as piloting a plane, and recalls that both have been his dream since he was in kindergarten. His parents took the family to visit the USS Intrepid in New York and the Concorde was at the Intrepid Museum at Pier 86. The Concorde, the first supersonic passenger-carrying commercial airplane, was built jointly by aircraft manufacturers in Great Britain and France.
Smolensky admits he sets high standards for himself and is highly motivated to attain the standards he sets, which is probably why he scored 1550 out of 1600 in his SATs, and why he also studied for the Private Pilot Scholarship on his own with an online program every day for no less than half an hour in order to ensure he would pass the qualification test.
When asked why he thinks he should know something about aviation as a high school junior in order to get the scholarship to school him in aviation excellence, the junior shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and replied quietly, “I don’t know, but I guess they want to be sure each of us has the ability to understand the basics of such a complex field.”
It is not that Smolensky spends all his time studying or reviewing for tests. This season, he will referee soccer games for several different school or youth groups, a way to make some of the money he cannot make from a summer job this year because of the scholarship.
He is active in numerous charitable causes, including being a member of the drill team at MAST, the school’s KEY club, where he set up a toiletry drive for Habitat for Humanity and also collected funds for the Raine Foundation, the Hazlet-based non-profit charity that helps children and families in crisis. He has been a member of the Middletown South High School’s marching band for four years, playing the tenor sax, which started when he was at Thompson Middle School and in their band program. He is a varsity tennis player for Middletown South and said he can juggle his schedules and time frames by adhering to the calendar he keeps, sleeping “probably less than I should” and “simply staying on top of things to be certain I can get it all done.”
The cadet is also looking forward to college and currently feels he would like to pursue a career with the Air Force, but will apply to all the military academies as well as for ROTC scholarships with Emery-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, his first choice if accepted. He also plans to seek scholarships to the University of Virginia, University of Maryland, and Penn State and the University of South Carolina, but “will make all these decisions when the time comes.”
Smolensky does not know where his love for engineering specifically comes from, but he has always had an interest in discovering how things work. He is paving his own unique career path in the family; Tyler's dad is an accountant, his mom is a science teacher and his younger brother, Benjamin is on his way to high school next year. His desire to learn, to achieve, and to set goals and work hard to attain them appear to be family traits.
As for the cadet’s favorite subject? “I like all kinds of math and science,” he says, “but I suppose physics is really my favorite.”